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March 3, 2016 Member Letter

Dear Brethren,

One of the most difficult things for me is choosing which project to start and when. I usually have a dozen things going on and stacks of papers on my desk that need my attention. Where do I start? For me, whenever I feel overwhelmed, I ask myself, What is the most important thing I need to do right now?

As Christians, we must ask ourselves the same question every day: What is the most important thing I need to do right now in my spiritual life?

During the recently completed Young Adult Leadership Weekend, we focused on one of the basic issues of Christianity—faith. The seminars were organized around a question that Christ asked His disciples in Luke 18:8: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” The question was probably rhetorical since the original disciples did not live to see Christ return (although they didn’t understand that at the time), and there is no record of Christ’s receiving an answer.

To understand what is meant by this question, take a look at the context. Earlier, in Luke 17:5, the disciples had asked Christ to increase their faith, as if it were a simple matter. Now we read in Luke 18:1, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,” and He followed with the parable of the persistent widow. Sometimes Christ explained parables after the fact, but in this case His purpose is given in advance—to teach His disciples that men should pray always and not lose heart. He was showing that even though faith is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), Christians must do something to receive it. Growing in faith includes being persistent, continually striving each and every day to please God. No man can give you faith—only God can do that—but you can increase your faith by maintaining contact with Him.

Our faith will be regularly tested. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Physical events do not, of and by themselves, produce faith. Real faith comes from things that can’t be seen, and that’s a difficult concept to understand. We want to see God heal more people, intervene in difficult job situations, solve problems within our family, protect us when we travel, or provide us with an important need. We might think if He would only do all these things then of course we would have more faith. 

But biblical evidence shows that this is not true. The ancient Israelites witnessed amazing miracles. The 10 plagues were poured out on the Egyptians while they were protected. They then crossed the Red Sea on dry land while the Egyptian army drowned. It’s hard to imagine a more impressive series of miracles over such a short period of time, but did it increase their faith? Hardly! After only three days in the wilderness, they were complaining against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:24). And one month after crossing the Red Sea they wanted to go back to Egypt (Exodus 16:1-3)! They missed the “good ole days”! Amazing!

Before we judge the Israelites too harshly, we should consider our own lives. I have witnessed a number of miracles in the Church over the years and was inspired when these events happened, but I have to admit it wasn’t long until I was back in my regular routine, not giving a lot of thought to the miracle. How easily we forget.

We learn an important lesson from these biblical examples—faith is not produced overnight, nor does it grow out of a single event, no matter how amazing that event may be. Faith is developed by staying close to God, praying always and holding on, committing to God in every part of our lives. It requires diligence, a serving attitude and a heart to help your brother whenever you can.

There is considerable debate over the simple word that is translated “substance” in Hebrews 11:1. It comes from the Greek word hupostasis and has the meaning of “something underneath,” such as a “foundation” or an “assurance.” One source refers to hupostasis as being like a legal document in a land transfer, similar to a title deed. In most countries when you purchase a piece of property you receive what is called a title or a deed (or title deed), assuring there are no liens on the property and the land is now yours. The title deed also guarantees you that the property exists, even if you have not seen it. In a similar way, faith assures us that God’s promises are real and that God is faithful to fulfill those promises.

If we look around among God’s people, we can find many modern-day lessons of faith. Last month I enjoyed visiting the South American country of Ecuador, where we have approximately 30 scattered members. Since the membership has always been small, they can rarely—only on holy days and special occasions—get together for services. Yet, in spite of their isolation, several members have been in the Church since the 1970s. While visiting them, I was reminded of Revelation 17:14, which describes the return of Jesus Christ: “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” To be with Christ at His return, we must be called, we must be chosen, and we must also be faithful.

Faith underpins everything we do as Christians. Without faith, we know it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The challenge for all of us is to maintain our faith in spite of all the distractions that exist in life. How can we do that? Christ’s parable encouraged His disciples to pray always and never lose heart. In other words, faith increases when you put your relationship with God as your No. 1 priority—praying daily, never giving up in spite of the difficulties life may throw at you.

What is the most important thing we need to do right now in our spiritual lives? As we approach another Passover season, this is a key question. Each year we must examine our priorities in preparation for the Passover service, and faith must be at the top of that list. It isn’t easy, and it won’t happen overnight—but with diligence and dedication, your faith can be strengthened. But you must make your relationship with God priority No. 1!

Sincerely, your brother in Christ,

Jim Franks

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